In Missions & PsychoHeresy (M&PH), we say, "Until what to now has not been proven (the value of using mental health professionals and psychological tests to screen missionary candidates) has been proven, mission agencies should not turn to pseudoexperts and their tests." We thoroughly document our reasons for this recommendation.
We do not name any psych services used by any of the mission agencies in our book. However, one of the most popular providers of psych services is the Link Care Foundation, Inc., which provides psych services for many of the mission agencies. For the tax period of July 1, 1998 through June 30, 1999, Link Careís total revenue was $1,395,289. Of this amount, $1,261,702 was listed under "Program service revenue."
Link Care is located in Fresno, California and is a psychological assessment agency used for a variety of purposes by mission agencies. They are unabashedly an integrationist organization that, according to them, uses "sound psychological principles to enhance performance of overseas missionaries." Integrationists such as Link Care will claim to use "sound psychological principles," to be completely biblical, and at least not to violate Scripture.
Some years back we conducted a survey of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies (CAPS). CAPS members are psychologists of various kinds, many of whom practice psychotherapy and are committed to the integrationist view. We found in the CAPS survey how eclectic and, at the same time, different from one another these CAPS members were.
As a result of our survey of CAPS members, as well as information from numerous other psychologists, we state categorically that all of these psychologists (every one of them) claim to use "sound psychological principles" and are completely biblical or at least do not violate Scripture, even though they use a variety of the 450 available psychological approaches, many of which contradict one another.
Link Care admits that "The American Psychological Association [APA] has published ethical guidelines for the use and dissemination of testing information." We mention in Missions & PsychoHeresy two authoritative books on the subject:
The book that sets the standards for tests is published by the American Psychological Association, the American Educational Research Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education. The title of the volume is Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing. Reading the standards for content and construct validity should discourage anyone from using psychological tests for screening missionary candidates, because the standards for those two types of validity are not followed. Just looking in the index under "validation, criterion-related evidence" and reading the standards in the sections listed for criterion validity would be ample reason to place exclamation marks after the question of why such tests are used.
The Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology, Inc. (SIOP) produces a manual for its members titled Principles for the Validation and Use of Personnel Selection Procedures. In it they cover some of the same topics as the Standards volume. However, both manuals are consistent with one another.
While Link Care and other such organizations are aware of such guidelines produced by the APA and the SIOP, they in no way meet the standards set by these volumes in their evaluation and recommendations specifically having to do with criteria-related validity, as we demonstrate in our book.
Link Care uses the MMPI (see Chapter 7, M&PH), the TJTA (Chapter 9, M&PH) as well as other tests and projective techniques. We comment on the Rorschach inkblot test on pages 49-51 (M&PH). As the result of these and other tests, Link Care makes recommendations regarding those whom they have interviewed and tested (see pages 28-30, M&PH). Link Care does caution that their reports should not be used as a major determining factor, but there is no academic justification for using psychological interviews and tests at all.
Consider a man, woman, or couple preparing for the mission field being required to take one of the many personality tests used and, on the basis of the results, being rejected for service. Their future is thus determined by a faulty instrument that has nothing to do with the Bible and does not even meet scientific, criterion validity requirements. The proper level of criterion validity does not exist for any personality test to be used for this purpose, either when used alone or with other criteria.
One has to wonder what would have happened to the great missionaries of the past if they had been subjected to taking personality tests before going to the mission field. God only knows! No one should ever be rejected from missionary work or from the pastorate on the basis of a personality test score or even a battery of personality tests. Representatives of missionary agencies and denominations tell us that the psychological screening and testing is only one of several facets to look at the missionary candidate. However, two questions need to be asked of these missionary agencies and denominations: 1. Can a missionary candidate refuse to be screened by a mental health professional or psychological test without being discriminated against for doing so? 2. Has any missionary candidate refused such screening?
The fact is that missionary candidates know that refusing the psychoexpert screening and psych tests will lead to being rejected by the mission agency. Missionaries have told us that as a candidate you just do it because it is required.
Link Care conducted a survey some years back of "78 missionary sending agencies." While we do not name them in the book, we mention the survey and note that they found that "psychological assessment as represented by interviews with psychologists, psychiatrists, or counselors occupies approximately one-fourth to one-third of the average selection interview time." Regardless of the percentage of time devoted to psychological interviews and regardless of what mission agency, it is our estimate that the psych screening is taken seriously and can make or break the selection, in spite of protests to the contrary by the agencies (see pages 67 and 68, M & PH).
Link Care and other such agencies make claims and offer services for a price. Therefore the burden of proof is on them to scientifically demonstrate that their services produce the results for which they have been hired. The best way for this to occur is for the mission agencies that use Link Care and other such psychological services to hire an independent, third-party psychometric evaluation team. We predict that if this were done, it would expose the uselessness and possible damage of using such organizations as Link Care.
The Psychological Wisdom of Men or the Word of God?
When one considers the grip psychology has on missions in evaluating candidates and in providing treatment for missionaries experiencing problems, one must ask whether mission agencies believe the Gospel is enough. If the Word of God quickened by the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is not enough for missionaries themselves, how can they tell others the Good News, the Gospel that saves and sanctifies? [See 2 Tim. 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:2-4.] Godís Word declares it is sufficient, but if the Word of God is not sufficient for the life and godliness of missionaries, is it enough for those to whom they minister?
Missions & PsychoHeresy only touches the most obvious aspects of missionary use and dependence on psychological theories and therapies. How much penetrates into the message of missionaries can only be surmised by looking at the extent to which it has engulfed North American churches, Bible colleges, seminaries, books, and so-called Christian media. North American Christianity has become a vast referral system that sends suffering saints to psychiatrists and other mental health professionals.
Missions today are promoting a mixed message of the Bible plus psychology, the Holy Spirit plus personality tests and psychological counselors, and Godís Gospel plus a psychological gospel. As mission agencies import psychological interviews, tests, and treatment into missions they are surely exporting confidence in these kinds of psychology. How much is being exported by missions we do not know. But, we pray that mission agencies, as well as the entire church, will rid themselves of these psychological theories and therapies and cling only to the Lord and His Word activated by the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.
[Some of the material in this article is excerpted from the book Missions & PsychoHeresy.]
(PAL V8N6 * November-December 2000)